December 2014 Movie Preview

E: And so another year comes to a close, with films exciting, serious, thrilling, heart-warming and funny.

M: And almost everything being released this month opens in Christmas. Because nothing says “the Savior is born!” like a trip to the local multiplex.

E: Poor C needs saving these days, too; hopefully we’ll have more luck getting her to rejoin us once she’s finished with her dissertation and job applications! It’s less fun fighting with you without her as a buffer.

M: I’m not sure how much of a buffer she is, as we usually gang up on you, but I agree, less fun without little sis!

December 3rd

Wild

E: Ready for Reese Witherspoon’s second Oscar nomination? Check out the film based on writer Cheryl Strayed best selling memoir, and directed by Jean-Marc Vallee, who made last year’s Oscar favorite Dallas Buyer’s Club.

M: Good qualifications, I’m just down on the source material. Our book club (technically more yours than mine, as I have only been able to make the time to read one book) did this, and I was thoroughly uninterested when you all started reading it. Then, seeing what you all were discussing after made me negatively interested. But for the sake of our readers, why don’t you explain the “plot.”

E: After the unexpected death of her mother (Laura Dern, poised to receive her second nomination as well), Strayed dropped out of college and descended into a world of drugs and self abuse. Her solution? Hiking the PCT – the Pacific Crest Trail, which transverses the entire West Coast. While woefully unprepared for the rigors of the journey, she hopes the time alone in the wilderness will bring her strength and peace.

M: As we discussed with On The Road whenever that came out, I’m just not in tune with that mindset.

E: Maybe because I’ll have to live with it for less time, but I’m anticipating liking the movie more than the book.  That’s a very rare occurrence, but it happens.  Oh, and before you ask, no. Dern is not old enough to be Witherspoon’s mother, but she’s actually older than Strayed’s mother was when she died. It’s 38 year old Witherspoon who’s playing a character that’s supposed to be some 12 years younger.

M: Yeah, even with her pixie-ish looks, that’s an awfully big stretch.

E: Reese may not be the front runner for best actress – that’d be 4 time nominee Julianne Moore, who may finally be getting her due for Still Alice – but she has a special place as a producer this season as well as a likely acting nominee, not only shepherding Wild to the screen, but also another literary phenomenon, Gone, Girl.  That, my friends, is a pretty good year. Good for you, Reese!

M: Don’t forget October’s The Good Lie.

E: She didn’t produce that one, but sure, she’s had a very busy fall.

M: Sorry, didn’t mean to make it look like she did, was just adding it to the list of her work this year.

E: Gotch’ya. Like Gone, Girl, Wild should find a pretty decent audience, and Oscar nominations all around.

M: Can I tangent off onto a discussion based on one line in the trailer, that I’m guessing is pretty central to the book, too? The line “If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t do a single thing differently. What if all those things I did were the things that got me here?” Now, I understand the idea, the concept, the thought process behind this line. I’ve heard it a lot, in a lot of circumstances. And I think it’s a load of crap. Not every bad decision we make is something that makes us better. Not every mistake is something that unalterably moved us toward where we are now. The butterfly effect is not fact, but theory, and no one knows what would really alter space-time. I believe that you can have made better choices in your life and still be the person you are now.

E: Sure. I think the point of that is more about accepting the fact that you can’t change your past (especially a past as destructive as Strayed’s), and trying to see good even in the bad, but you make a fair point.

December 5th

Still Alice

E: As aforementioned, perpetual Oscar bridesmaid Julianne Moore leaps to the head of the pack as an academic diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers.

M: Quick warning, there’s an f-bomb in the trailer, so if that concerns you, don’t click.

E: Yep — not kid-friendly.

M: Also, there’s what looks to be a pretty genuine look into the sadness of an Alzheimers diagnosis.

E: After playing a woman suffering with Alzheimers, Julie Christie lost the Oscar a few years ago to Marion Cotillard (a crime that still makes me cringe), but Christie’s film Away from Her was told from the husband’s perspective. Still Alice is the first film I can think of told from inside an Alzheimer’s patient’s slowly disintegrating mind, and all reports point to it being a spectacular achievement.

M: On the other hand, there’s Kristen Stewart…

E: Hey, don’t let prejudice get in your way. She’s actually supposed to be quite good; she plays Moore’s daughter, and the scenes between them look terrific. Stewart is capable of that, even if we haven’t seen that side of her in a while.

M: Hmmm. Is a well-developed impression based on experience actually prejudice, just because it’s negative?

Comet

E: Justin Long and Emmy Rossum star in this indie romance about star crossed lovers who meet in multiple timelines/alternate universes. If I’m reading the trailer correctly, it’ll be like getting the relationship high points with the same people but through a half dozen iterations. Six meet cutes, six tortured declarations of love. I can’t imagine seeing it in the theater over all the Oscar fare out there, but that’s just my hang up. It looks charming, and it’ll definitely go into my Netflix queue.

M: Love Justin Long, like the concept, Netflix it is.

Dying of the Light

E: Oh, Nicholas Cage. The wildly uneven actor’s in full on bombastic mode as a CIA agent hoping to catch a terrorist before dementia sets in. That’s not a joke, by the way.

M: A terrorist that everyone at the CIA thinks has been dead for 20 years, to boot. Now, I’m not sure if it’s that he’s being made up to look older and haggard, but man does Cage look old.

E: So old. Like Cage’s hair in the trailer, this weekend is a little thin. Whatevs: I still have about 6 movies I need to see from November and October.

M: And you don’t think that old-looking action hero Nic Cage, in a movie being promoted as “In theaters and On Demand Decemebr 5th” is going to make the cut? Pshaw…

Life Partner

E: Two twenty-something best friends — one straight, one gay — have their lives disrupted when the straight one (Gillian Jacobs) finds romantic love and the gay one (Leighton Meester) gets left out in the cold.

M: Adam Brody of The O.C. and The League supports as the guy Jacobs falls for. Makes me wonder if this should have been called The Life Partner.

E: Show of hands for people who got that joke!

Reading Audience: *hands all raised*

E: And still laughed?

Reading Audience: That’s a different story.

M: And I’m fine with that.

E: As long as you’re willing to admit that. Even if Bridesmaids did it before, I think it’s nice and worth highlighting when movies touch on actual life issues. After a certain age everyone’s been there, right — feeling bereft when a good friend ignores you for the latest love of their life. At least through our twenties, friendships can be the most intense relationships in our lives. As Meester notes in the trailer, it leaves a painful hole when you don’t have that person to talk to at 2 am anymore.

M: It’s a very real topic that is not often the plot of a movie, so that definitely gives this a certain appeal. The leads all appear quirky-fun, it has a good vibe to it, and some good lines, like Jacobs telling Meester “you’re offensive to yourself” when she says she doesn’t want to look too gay. Also, it has Gabby Sidibe in a supporting role.

E: Awesome Oscar nominees: always welcome.

December 12th

Exodus: Gods and Kings

E: I guess I admire that someone’s trying to make a good Biblical epic these days, but the recent track record isn’t exactly great. Then again, maybe I shouldn’t hold Noah against these filmmakers.

M: No, you definitely shouldn’t, especially when this one has already caused a different kind of firestorm of its own. In case you’ve been hiding under a rock (or pyramid), the filmmakers, specifically director Ridley Scott and FOX chairman Rupert Murdoch, have been defending the decision to cast white actors in the roles of an ancient Hebrew and an ancient Egyptian.

E: I am definitely not hiding under a rock, but I somehow missed that one.  I’m not really sure how I feel about that; as a person of Middle Eastern descent, I’d like to see people who look like me playing more than terrorists or Saudi royals.  On the other hand, I appreciate the producers’ need to cast a bankable star.

M: To me, casting Christian Bale as Moses is reminiscent of Denzel Washington being cast in the lead in The Pelican Brief, as a character that was very specifically white in the book. The defense of the casting was “If you can get Denzel Washington, you do it,” and while I don’t think Bale is quite at the Denzel level, he’s not too far behind. Joel Edgerton, on the other hand….

E: Edgerton’s a really good actor even if he’s not particularly famous.

M: I have not been overly impressed.

E: I actually have a different beef: I read a whole article about how they were going to make the parting of the Red Sea look naturalistic, like a tide rather than a wall of water, and what do you see in the commercials? A wall of water.

M: The Siblings’ Mom has discussed in the past how the tides were likely to have been a major factor in how the Red Sea was parted and then came crashing back down, so I’m glad they’re going for a more realistic approach. And it can be realistic and still have a wave of water.

E: Eh, I don’t know.  It looked like exactly what they said they were going to avoid.

M: The bigger criticism I’ve heard about that scene is that it fails to deliver, partly because Interstellar has redefined the bar for giant walls of water. Whether Exodus lives up to it or not, as I’ve actually seen Interstellar I can say that that’s 100% true, the bar has totally be raised.

E: Not having seen Interstellar (told you I was behind), I can thank you for that spoiler, and also agree that on its own it is an unimpressive wall of water.

M: It was in all the commercials, so it’s hardly a spoiler, but sorry. And seriously, go see that film!!!

E: I know, I know, I need to. Also, there’s an excessive amount of eyeliner going on. So I’m dubious.

M: It’s ancient Egypt, of course there’s guyliner. Come on.

Inherent Vice

E: A truly strange-looking extravaganza from auteur Paul Thomas Anderson from the Thomas Pynchon novel, starring Joaquin Phoenix as a beach bum/hippie/detective solving a mysterious plot at the head of an all star cast.

M: It’s the fun kind of strange, though, not the American Horror Story kind of strange.

E: And as usual with Anderson ensembles, the cast is pretty deep: Josh Brolin, Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Benecio Del Toro, Eric Roberts, Maya Rudolph and Martin Short. Wacky and colorful, it seems to blend American Hustle with Raymond Carver.

M: Haven’t seen Hustle, and don’t know Carver. To me it looked like a cross between the Coen brothers and Tarantino, but bereft of violence.

E: Quirky Americana plus Noir. What I said. Not that you really ever have Tarantino without violence, but that’s a quibble for another day – mostly because I expect there to be some serious violence in Inherent Vice somewhere even if it doesn’t appear in the trailer.

Top Five

E: Chris Rock flick about a comedian living the high life who’s not sure he wants to be funny anymore. Or marry a reality star played by Gabrielle Union (whose mantra is “not on camera, it doesn’t exist”), especially not once he starts spending time with New York Times reporter Rosario Dawson instead. Supposed to be quite good.

M: It has an air of truth to it, as a big part of it is people questioning if Rock is past his prime, and isn’t funny any more (whether he wants to be or not). It’s a good question, too, as it seems to happen frequently. We see comedians come through, be amazingly funny for a period of time, usually a decade or less, and then just seem to lose it overnight. It’s hard to be funny, so it shouldn’t be a surprise, but I like the idea of a film taking it on.

E: Agreed. It could work.  It’s a likable cast, too – costars include Cedric the Entertainer, JB Smoove, Charlie Rose, Tracy Morgan, Kevin Hart and Whoopi Goldberg.

M: Remember last December when we were talking about Kevin Hart being everywhere? Is it just me, or does it feel like that conversation has extended for about 13 months now?

E: Oh, it’s not just you.

December 17th

The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies

E: Yawn.

M: This makes me sad, because I want to be excited for this. I want it to be great. I want it to be an enjoyable end to Peter Jackson making Middle Earth movies. And I liked the Desolation of Smaug more than An Unexpected Journey.

E: Sadly that’s not a high bar.

M: It goes back to the same problem we’ve had for three years now… This never should have been turned into three films. The battle of the five armies was one chapter in the book. ONE. It shouldn’t take up most of what figures to be a 3 hour movie.

E: Yes. There is no reason for this movie to exist other than a money grab. There is no excuse for it.

M: Honestly, I don’t think it’s a money grab, I think it’s Jackson not being able to edit himself enough. But that’s beside the point. And yes, everything visual about the movie looks as good as it should, especially the moose-type-thing that Thranduil rides in on. And yes, I’ll see it in the theater. But… it just doesn’t feel right.

E: I will not see it in the theater, and it pisses me off that Jackson could produce something I actively am too disappointed to see.

M: One thing that I was thinking about recently was how the third Lord of the Rings installment cleaned up the Oscars, and was widely lauded as one of the best films of all time. The third installment of the Hobbit series isn’t garnering any awards buzz. That’s sad.

E: It’s all of one piece, though – it’s not getting Oscar buzz because the other two movies delivered on senseless spectacle, and nothing else.  Honestly, the way they’re trying to force a largely lighthearted adventure into an epic-size box does nothing but dishonor the brilliant filmmaking that came before.

M: The Hobbit: brought to you by the word sad. Here’s to hoping, without much hope, that we’re wrong.

December 19th

Annie

E: Youngest ever best actress nominee Quvenzhane Wallis stars in this modernization of the classic Broadway musical, along with Cameron Diaz as Miss Hanagan and Jamie Foxx as the renamed Daddy Warbucks, here styled as Mayoral candidate Will Stacks. Bridesmaid‘s Rose Byrne plays his devoted assistant.

M: The older two siblings saw Annie on stage as kids (sorry C!), and both it and it’s soundtrack have been a part of our lives forever.

E: Oh my gosh, yes. The trailers I’ve seen haven’t used any of the iconic music, which is a little puzzling.  If I hadn’t seen the orphans — restyled as foster kids — doing “Hard Knock Life” on Dancing with the Stars, I’d think they were running away from the songs that provided a backdrop for our childhood.  And I would have been pissed.

M: That’s odd. The trailer I linked to in the title above has “Hard Knock Life” and “Tomorrow,” and a comment by Diaz about the city “suddenly getting more musical”, which I thought was pretty funny. I have to say, I really like the look of this version. I hope it’s good.

E: Me too. Maybe we can take C to it to make up for her missing seeing it on stage.

M: And for missing this preview.

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

E: Seeing Robin Williams on this poster made me almost tear up on our way into Big Hero Six this weekend.

M: Agreed. On the other hand, this franchise has been an enjoyable, fun ride so far, and looks to be adding to the already excellent cast of characters, with the likes of Ben Kingsley joining the mix for this third installment. On the other hand, when your trailer ends with a monkey peeing on tiny Owen Wilson? Not so great.

E: Oh, whatever. Pee is funny. Kids will always laugh at pee.

M: It is also a lazy joke, which is my concern when we’re talking about a third installment in a series.

Mr. Turner

E: Director Mike Leigh — famous for never working with a script — brings us this costume drama with huge award buzz, the story of British landscape painter J. M. W. Turner.

M: It starts Timothy Spall, Peter “Wormtail” Pettigrew to Harry Potter fans, in the title role.

E: It garnered rapturous reviews at Cannes, and to date Spall has won not only the Cannes best actor prize but also the NYFCC best actor as well. Best actor is wide open this year (major contenders include November‘s Eddie Redmayne, Michael Keaton and Benedict Cumberbatch as well as a few fellows you’ll hear about below), and Spall is definitely in the hunt.

M: He’s come a long way since playing a projectionist in The Who’s Quadrophenia.

E: Also starring the delightful Leslie Manville (Malefiecent), and Dorothy Atkinson (Call the Midwife).  Even though the Best Actor field is (as always) grossly overcrowded, this on my list.

The Gambler

E: To the good: we’ve never quite seen Mark Wahlburg this undone. He’s a suave, brilliant English professor with a hidden gambling addiction, a child of money who’s squandered his intelligence and looks on a dissolute life, and he’s lost a foolish bet with the wrong set of gangsters. John Goodman, too, is delightful when he’s tough, as is Jessica Lange as Wahlburg’s mother. To the bad: he’s of course going to hook up with one of his students, who in her capacity as a casino staff has seen his secret.

M: I’ll say this for your “bad”, at least it’s less creepy than when Jonah Hill was hitting on the same actress, Brie Larson, when she was portraying a high school student in 21 Jump Street. What do you think it is about her that gets her cast as in these inappropriate relationships?

E: Um, she’s an actress in Hollywood? And Jonah Hill has to be at least a decade closer to her age than Wahlburg.

M: But she was supposed to be in high school! At least in this she’s supposed to be an adult.

E: Her being a college student is that much better?  Whatevs. The thing that I most feel when I watch the trailer is, why? Why should I care? Wahlburg seems so in the throes of his addiction that I don’t feel any internal struggle. He’s hoping to survive another day, sure, but that’s not enough to make me watch if I just feel like he’d gamble it all away again at the next possible opportunity.

M: Well, it is a remake of the 1974 James Caan film of the same name, which was supposedly well received. I’m guessing, if they’ve now made the same movie twice, that there’s something more than just surviving for another day. And Wahlburg said it’s the most challenging role he’s ever played. So internal conflict or no, I’m hoping it can be an entertaining romp, along the lines of one of Marky Mark’s other remakes, The Italian Job.

E: Which I love, but I think you misunderstand the tone completely.

M: Ok, no, I’m not expecting the same tone as The Italian Job, just hoping it’s entertaining, like that was. I know this will be grittier.

E: I don’t know. I’ve heard some awards buzz and seen some similar remarks from Wahlburg, so maybe it’s just not an effective trailer.

M: That’s my guess.

December 25th

Big Eyes

E: Star Amy Adams has a shot at another Oscar nomination for her role as the artist behind some of the 60s most enduringly tacky art in what is rumored to be Tim Burton’s best effort in years. Two time Oscar winner Christoph Waltz costars as Adams’ husband, who takes all the credit for her work.

M: Unfortunately for Burton, “best effort in years” isn’t a very high bar. If we were at our most generous (the successful, but not very good Alice in Wonderland) it’s been four years. If we were somewhere in the middle maybe 11 (the very enjoyable, but not overly successful Big Fish). If we were being really picky it’s been at least 20 (Ed Wood or Batman Returns). I feel like Burton’s been living off his run of successes in the late 80’s and early 90’s, mixed with the reputation as an oddball genius, for two decades now. Even Johnny Depp hasn’t been able to help him lately (Dark Shadows, anyone?)

E: Fair enough.  He’s clearly coasting on early success, though I really liked the more recent Big Fish and loved The Nightmare Before Christmas. And though I didn’t see the full length version, I understand that 2012’s Frankenweenie was pretty terrific. I’d like to see him return to form though.

M: I think we all would. And while Adams and Waltz are really good, a divorced mother jumps into a quick marriage, the man signs his name to her paintings so they’ll sell, and then apparently undermines her every thought, takes all the credit, and they end up in court over it all? This just looks like a big ball of “I’d rather not watch” to me. It’s certainly behind The Gambler on my list, at least.

The Interview

E: December feeling too serious? Seth Rogan, James Franco and Lizzy Caplan have the answer to that. Rogan and Franco attempt to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, with the help of Caplan’s government agent. I’m not going to lie — it looks pretty funny, and it’s a smart counter programming play.

M: You think? Most of what I’ve seen, outside of Caplan’s “There is a zero percent chance of this working” line, looks like Rogan and Franco getting stoned and having other people act around them. I’ve seen that before, it’s not as funny as they think it is, regardless of setting. Of course, I haven’t been stoned while watching, maybe that’s the problem.

E: Well, I wasn’t, and I laughed, so there.

M: Consider me put in my place.

Into the Woods

E: Meryl Streep leads an all star cast as the wicked witch in Rob Marshall’s version of the Steven Sondheim fairy tale musical. Okay, the choral bits feel rather dated, but Streep gives me shivers, I can’t wait to hear Emily Blunt sing, and Anna Kendrick and Chris Pine just wreck me as a newly disillusioned Cinderella and her faithless prince. I cannot wait to hear the reviews on this one.

M: The buzz has been out there for this Once Upon A Time-like fairy tale mash up since they started making it, and the trailers do look, for lack of a better word, magical. I’m with you about wanting to see the reviews, and what the tomato-meter has to say about it, but I’m optimistic.

E: Me too.  One question though — I see where Johnny Depp was going with the zoot-suited wolf (which he co-designed with sure-to-be-nominated costume designer Colleen Atwood),  but I can’t help feeling the classic cartoon reference clashes with fairy tale feel of everything else.  Depp is famous for his involvement with costume as an avenue to character; like his frequent collaborator Burton, he may also be coasting on earlier successes.

M: Interesting, I never knew he had involvement in costume design, but now that you mention it it makes perfect sense.

E: Oh, he definitely is. Three time Oscar winner Atwood has collaborated with him before, since she makes the costumes for all of Tim Burton’s movies, and so might even be nominated twice this year if Big Eyes makes enough of a visual splash.

M: As for coasting, I’m not sure if he’s as much coasting as he is really hit-and-miss in general. While he has a great reputation, he’s had both duds and under apprecaited performances (Nick of Time is a favorite of mine) all throughout his career, and has always made a lot of quirky choices. Less hits lately, for sure, but things like The Lone Ranger weren’t his fault, and can you really fault him for going back to the Jack Sparrow well too many times? Pretty sure he’s had a blast playing that character.

E: So maybe he thinks more about what helps him get into a role than what would be useful to the audience. I’ll be curious to see, though.

Unbroken

E: I know you’re dying to see this, M, so why don’t you take it on?

M: Gladly. This biopic is based on the bestseller by Laura Hillenbrand. For those who haven’t heard of it, or her, she wrote the book the fantastic movie of Seabiscut was based on.

E: And she’s a writer who knows how to make nonfiction absolutely gripping; if you haven’t read her, you should. Assuming you like exciting stories and being entertained.

M: As an author she immerses herself in her subject, and the world they lived in at the time they lived. She also finds stories that at based on suffering and, ultimately, redemption. She has that in spades in the story of Louie Zamperini. It’s a story that is so unbelievable that if I hadn’t know I was reading a biography, I legitimately wouldn’t have believed it. It makes you cheer, cry, rips your guys out, and then makes them jump for joy. It’s one of the most remarkable stories I’ve ever read. So yeah, I’m a little excited for it.

E: Just a little, I see.

M: As for the film, it looks like it’s lining up to be a spectacular translation. It starts with a screenplay written by the Coen brothers, who, I mean, how do you not trust them to do it right?

E: Huh. I did not know that. Intriguing. It’s rare to see them give one of their scripts away for someone else to direct, not to mention the fact that tone seems totally outside their wheelhouse.

M: Both true points, but both strangely inspire confidence in me, in a “they believed in the project so much they agreed to come on just to write” kind of way. Angelina Jolie is directing, and apparently took it on as a labor of love. I’ve never seen her directorial debut, In The Land of Blood and Honey, but what I’ve seen in trailers and promotional material for this looks good, so I’m hopeful there. Add in a cast that is mostly unknown, which will at the least have the positive of you not watching it thinking “hey, there’s Matt Damon” or whatever big name they could have chosen.

E: As long as they can act, I won’t mind not knowing them at all. And it sounds like most reviewers think star Jack O’Connell can act.

M: Which is good, because he’ll need to. But really, it all comes back to the story. If they do even a reasonable job telling Louie’s amazing story, this movie will be amazing, and I’ll pay full price to own it as soon as it comes out on video.

American Sniper

E: Bradley Cooper beefs up to play the greatest marksman in American history (or so the film claims), Chris Kyle, in Clint Eastwood’s look at his brief life. Early reviews call it Eastwood’s best work in years, an Unforgiven-like examination of the price of violence, and a revelation from Cooper. Right now Cooper’s part of a field of contenders hoping to knock a favorite off the presumed Best Actor list (along with Wahlburg and O’Connell) but Eastwood’s films tend to be impressive last minute challengers.

M: Just watching the trailer is gut-wrenching! I can’t imagine what watching the whole film will be like, let alone actually being put in Kyle’s shoes, or the shoes of any of our soldiers like him.

E: Yes. Incredibly horrifying and impactful. It takes you inside of war, and inside that decision: how does a sniper know who’s a fair target? How do you make that choice to kill, and then live with yourself after?

M: Totally. After watching the trailer I thanked God that I’m not the one that would have to make that kind of a decision, and that I don’t live in a part of the world where that is everyday life. Woah.

E: Amen. That’s part of what makes it worth watching, though — because we should care about what our soldiers have to carry out in our names.

Selma

E: Christmas — the movie opening day that keeps on giving. Ava DuVernay’s historical drama is one of the films I’m most excited about for this month. The Butler‘s David Oyelowo stars as the civil rights leader during the months surrounding the famed march on the southern city of Selma.

M: I saw the trailer for this before Interstellar, in which Oyelowo has a small role. Powerful is the first word that comes to mind.

E: I’ve enjoyed Oyelowo’s work since first seeing him in MI6, and I’m very excited to see him take on this role. In addition, there’s Tom Wilkinson as a reluctantly listening LBJ and everybody’s favorite bureaucrat/slime Dylan Baker as J. Edgar Hoover. The cast is rounded out by Carmen Ejogo, Common, Tessa Thompson, Tim Roth, Lorraine Toussaint, Alessandro Nivola and Giovanni Ribisi.

M: I’ve always been inspired by Dr King, and have been amazed that there haven’t been more movies made about him and his work.

E: I agree, it’s odd and unfortunate that there haven’t been. I’m very excited to see this, though. “What happens when a man stands up and says enough is enough?” The power of peaceful protest to show the tyranny of racism has never felt more relevant.

M: After what we’ve seen over the last few weeks, you’re completely right. At the time it was a struggle, a huge fight within the civil rights movement, as to whether protests should be peaceful, or if violence was a more effective agent for change. Today we are again seeing that battle rage again, the violent and the peaceful. It’s sad, but now more than ever it’s good to look back on what truly inspired change at that pivotal time in history.

E: And there’s such power in the trailer that it brings me to tears.

M: To be fair, a funny cat video could bring you to tears.

E: Hey! A Hallmark commercial, maybe. News stories about Ebola, definitely. Not cat videos.

M: So say you… while you’re not watching one. What if the cat looked like one of the cats we had growing up? Hmm?

E: Only if the cat died. But then it wouldn’t be funny.

M: But we digress.

E: Yes you do. Anyway, another cool thing about this Christmas’s bevy of choices? Two major Oscar contending films directed by women. You won’t see that any other day of the year.

M: To quote the Honest Trailer for Frozen, “Take that Jezebel!”

E: Oh, come on. We’ve been so cordial. Let’s not go there.

M: Truthfully, I was just trying to throw in a reference to that trailer. It’s hilarious.

December 31st

A Most Violent Year

E: 1981, as it happens, was one of the most violent years in the history of New York City. This film traces the lives of one immigrant family over that year. It was directed by J.C. Chandor, who made last year’s acclaimed Robert-Redford-against-the-ocean-drama All is Lost, and stars Oscar Isaac, lead actor from last year’s acclaimed Inside Llewyn Davis.

M: So, here’s an odd little tidbit about Isaac. I was talking to a friend about the new Star Wars trailer, and he was mentioning a review he saw commenting on the diversity of it including an African American man, a Caucasian woman and a Latino man (Isaac). Only knowing him from the trailers and commercials for Davis, I would have never guessed anything but “native New Yorker” for Isaac. Turns out his full name is Oscar Isaac Hernandez, and he’s from Guatemala. Who knew?

E: I’m not entirely sure what you mean by native New Yorker, but I didn’t know he was Guatemalan. I didn’t know he was Joseph in The Nativity Story, either.

M: So, both this and Davis are set in NY, and he just he looks like he belongs, like someone I’d expect to see on the streets of New York. Maybe some sort of mix of the major ethnic groups that populate the Big Apple, but mostly just a melting-pot American.

E: I think pretty much anyone looks at home on the streets of New York City.  Anyway, I expect that if you like mob movies, you’re going to really like this.

M: It does look like a good mob pic. It also looks like it has a bit of the “good man trying to do the right thing in a bad situation” angle, as well as the “wife that’s pulling strings behind the scenes” plot. Both make for good theater.

E: It looks well made and well acted — Jessica Chastain (here playing Issacs’ wife) continues to shine in every role she takes, and David Oyelowo brings gravitas as a prosecutor — but since I don’t like mob movies, it presents me with some problems. In terms of personal taste, I’m going to be crossing my fingers in hopes that this film’s Oscar prospects have been overrated and I’ll be able to skip it.

M: You might be out of luck on that front.

E: Yeah. It just won the National Board of the Review’s best picture of the year, along with acting prizes for Isaacs and Chastain, and while the NBR’s track record isn’t perfect, it bodes ill for me.

M: On a different front, just that there’s something opening in December after that slate of Christmas day movies feels anti-climactic. And to bring it back to an earlier movie, that’s another criticism I’ve heard about Exodus, that they should have ended with the crossing of the Red Sea, and that the half hour or so of desert wandering after it feels like a let down.

E: Hey, you don’t have to see it.

M: No, it’s not that, just that writing this piece, it feels like it should end with that huge, awesome bunch of movies opening on Christmas day. One movie, opening on a Wednesday, feels anti-climactic, that’s all. Nothing against the movie itself.

E: I’ll go against the movie itself and say it feels like a gloomy end to 2014.  Here’s to a brighter — and less violent — 2015!  And one with lots more C in it.  We miss you, sis!

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